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Coronavirus (merged threads)

May 16, 2016
3,505
22
It's usually good about now to revisit our own very early expert contributions to this thread. Especially as none of us were blessed with hindsight or the deep dived for information on pandemic control at the time.

It will illustrate the difficulties faced throughout this by those responsible for taking the decisions that would literally cost lives v keeping the country from bankruptcy, or the shifting of opinion whilst not trying to appear hypocritical.
 
Ave_IT":f98fkkdp said:
But Frank.....

The thing is you can't say they "followed the science" because the science wasn't cast in tablets of stone. There was a substantial body of scientists who fundamentally disagreed at the time with what they were doing. The 'herd immunity' is a phrase that means different things to different people and has taken on a retrospective meaning that is now somewhat sinister. At the time it could be argued Vallance was just suggesting the 'curve' must be flattened by slowing the inevitable spread. There's nothing reckless in that principle - it's all about how that is implemented. Did he advocate we could all relax and let the virus rip? No - and he certainly wasn't advocating scrapping track and trace as the government did which, as you agree, was a fundamental mistake that scuppered any chance we had of 'flattening the curve'.

Then there's the point about the way the government actually listened to the science that they then claimed to be following. As the article I referenced shows there were many critical voices and much frustration in the science community with the lack of transparency. Holding secretive counsels, locked away in ivory towers with everyone sworn on pain of death not to reveal details of what was discussed is NOT how science works. They wouldn't even reveal who was on Sage for months - so is it any wonder they may not have got the best advice?

Having said all that I do take the point they had to take many other factors into account. Yes, it is easy in hindsight to say concerns about the economy, people's livelihoods, education, mental health etc. had to come second to the virus. We'd never experienced anything like it. It's one thing for authoritarian regimes to order a 'lockdown' but for a liberal democracy? It's easy to forget now that at the time the very idea was quite shocking. But their weasel defence of effectively blaming all their own mistakes on the scientists and absolving themselves of all responsibility is cowardly and gutless.

Actually i think the government has tried very hard not to blame the scientists, certainly at that time. They repeatedly used 'following the science' in their briefings and this was never contradicted by any of the top 5 or 6 CSO/CMO staff who were representing theor community.

You say that the science wasn't cast in tablets of stone. Of course it wasn't, we'd never done this before. As for being locked away making decisions, this was a moment of emergency - needing a response that was - indeed - in total contrast to the way that science works, and in any walk of life there will be difference of opinion. Reading your occasional anecdotes about your work, I'm sure like me you have had to lead projects. You don't always include absolutely everyone in that process, otherwise the committee becomes unwieldy and ultimately damaging. Inclusivity is good, but damaging beyond a point - key to most projects is getting that balance right. When you're faced with the criticality of time that is even more important. So who did the government turn to? SAGE and the leadership of the CMO and CSO. I think that's entirely right, and God forbid what would have been said had they not done so ("what's the point in having SAGE at all?", "who do these people think they are?" ....blah, blah).

At the risk of repeating examples:

1. This is an extract from the minutes of the SAGE meeting on March 5th, just before Cheltenham, Liverpool etc.. Vallance, Whitty, Powis and van Tam were among those in attendance:

“SAGE agreed there is no evidence to suggest that banning very large gatherings would reduce transmission.

“Preventing all social interaction in public spaces, including restaurants and bars, would have an effect, but would be very difficult to implement.”


2. As quoted in your fave rag The Guardian, Vallance said on 13th March:

“What we don’t want is everybody to end up getting it in a short period of time so we swamp and overwhelm NHS services – that’s the flattening of the peak,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Our aim is to try and reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not suppress it completely; also, because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity so more people are immune to this disease and we reduce the transmission, at the same time we protect those who are most vulnerable to it. Those are the key things we need to do.”

He later backtracked when criticised by others in his community but I suggest the statement above is pretty much unequivocal in relation to his thinking (at the time). They were following the science and the stupid denials of late don't wash with me - being charitable, perhaps though they were in some way trying to protect the people who were advocating as such? They certainly haven't come right out and laid it at their door have they?

As I said, I do believe they digressed from the advice in September and made mistakes - bad ones. But in those first 6 or 7 months I think they did what they could and followed the senior elected officers' advice - under extreme pressure as well.
 
Guiri Green":1rf0brgm said:
It's usually good about now to revisit our own very early expert contributions to this thread. Especially as none of us were blessed with hindsight or the deep dived for information on pandemic control at the time.

It will illustrate the difficulties faced throughout this by those responsible for taking the decisions that would literally cost lives v keeping the country from bankruptcy, or the shifting of opinion whilst not trying to appear hypocritical.

Absolutely right - me very much included.
 
Dec 27, 2004
666
8
Bidford on Avon
Guiri Green":b2u07mcg said:
Especially as none of us were blessed with hindsight or the deep dived for information on pandemic control at the time


Seriously GG?

He's had the same call to make four times and has dithered, delayed and made things immeasurably worse.

The damage done to the economy and the health and well being of the national has been catastrophic.

That's not anecdotal it's staring in the face in any measure we wish to use if being truly objective.

He does have the Midas touch I admit - if I performed that poorly I wouldn't expect to be in a role for long and couldn't complain, if I was honest with myself
 
Nov 15, 2011
1,260
19
No hindsight involved.

In September last year Sage and Starmer called for a circuit break, Johnson said lockdown would be a "disaster" and we know what happened.

It was the same before Christmas when Johnson accused Starmer of "wanting to cancel Christmas".

Same again in early April, we saw the pictures from India of improvised funeral pyres and overspill in hospitals, Bangladesh and Pakistan went on the red list but not India which had similar infection rates, because Johnson didn't want to miss out on a jolly with Modi. Everyone was screaming at him to put India on the red list, but he only did so 3 weeks later when his trip was cancelled.

I saw Gove trying to defend the dear leader this morning but you can tell his heart isn't in it anymore.
 

signalspast

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Aug 17, 2005
1,209
7
And yet if the tories called an election tomorrow they would win probably with a larger majority. If you took every comment on pasoti how badly they are doing, then surely labour should have taken over in popularity by now
 
Dec 27, 2004
666
8
Bidford on Avon
signalspast":3mraw4pa said:
And yet if the tories called an election tomorrow they would win probably with a larger majority. If you took every comment on pasoti how badly they are doing, then surely labour should have taken over in popularity by now

That is nowhere near the point SP.

I say again - this isn't about rosettes - it's an objective look at what's happening in real time.

It's a failure of leadership - again and again and again and again.

Boris is incapable of true leadership, he's more concerned with being popular in the press and being liked.

Terrible to contemplate, but I reckon Corby could have done no worse. :hitfan:
 
Nov 15, 2011
1,260
19
Pilgrim_Joe":b6c98nf4 said:
signalspast":b6c98nf4 said:
And yet if the tories called an election tomorrow they would win probably with a larger majority. If you took every comment on pasoti how badly they are doing, then surely labour should have taken over in popularity by now

That is nowhere near the point SP.

I say again - this isn't about rosettes - it's an objective look at what's happening in real time.

It's a failure of leadership - again and again and again and again.

Boris is incapable of true leadership, he's more concerned with being popular in the press and being liked.

Terrible to contemplate, but I reckon Corby could have done no worse. :hitfan:

Exactly, this isn't about what's popular, Hitler was popular, and if you tie your football scarf tight enough around your neck it cuts off the oxygen to your brain.

It's about objectively how the Government has dealt with the pandemic, and vaccines aside, it is appalling at every level. The worst possible Prime Minister at the worst possible time.
 
Apr 30, 2004
318
7
Launceston
Genuine question... what are YOU doing to change things?
Are you lobbying your political party to show some opposition?
If there is no effective opposition, nothing will ever change.
 
Just to back up the earlier conversation on excess deaths etc., another indicator that we may be over-reporting Covid related deaths in the ONS figures today:

To 14th June, deaths reported within 28 days of a Covid test = 127907
To 4th June, death certificate mentions Covid = 152397
To 4th June, excess deaths since the outbreak began = 115449

Of course you may argue that there are reduced numbers of deaths in areas such as traffic incidents etc., i.e. changes in the way we lived over the last 15 months, but I doubt that would have that much impact - and anyway probably balanced out by unreported serious illness in the same period.

A terrible toll nonetheless, but it does seem as though we're over-reporting, certainly in comparison to the majority of countries on that Economist list.
 
Nov 15, 2011
1,260
19
KeithB":9nh2w78x said:
Genuine question... what are YOU doing to change things?
Are you lobbying your political party to show some opposition?
If there is no effective opposition, nothing will ever change.

Unfortunately Keith my party, the Monster Raving Loony Party, no longer seem radical enough or relevant in today's politics
 
Dec 30, 2004
3,133
3
Brighton
themightykeithfear":2h3ze47q said:
KeithB":2h3ze47q said:
Genuine question... what are YOU doing to change things?
Are you lobbying your political party to show some opposition?
If there is no effective opposition, nothing will ever change.

Unfortunately Keith my party, the Monster Raving Loony Party, no longer seem radical enough or relevant in today's politics
I shook hands with Screaming Lord Sutch once!

Sadly I never got to meet the Silly Party's legendary Tarquin Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F'tang-F'tang-Olé-Biscuitbarrel, though.
 
Apr 15, 2004
2,785
6
East Devon
Frank_Butcher":2wcynb1f said:
Actually i think the government has tried very hard not to blame the scientists, certainly at that time. They repeatedly used 'following the science' in their briefings and this was never contradicted by any of the top 5 or 6 CSO/CMO staff who were representing theor community.

You say that the science wasn't cast in tablets of stone. Of course it wasn't, we'd never done this before. As for being locked away making decisions, this was a moment of emergency - needing a response that was - indeed - in total contrast to the way that science works, and in any walk of life there will be difference of opinion. Reading your occasional anecdotes about your work, I'm sure like me you have had to lead projects. You don't always include absolutely everyone in that process, otherwise the committee becomes unwieldy and ultimately damaging. Inclusivity is good, but damaging beyond a point - key to most projects is getting that balance right. When you're faced with the criticality of time that is even more important. So who did the government turn to? SAGE and the leadership of the CMO and CSO. I think that's entirely right, and God forbid what would have been said had they not done so ("what's the point in having SAGE at all?", "who do these people think they are?" ....blah, blah).

At the risk of repeating examples:

1. This is an extract from the minutes of the SAGE meeting on March 5th, just before Cheltenham, Liverpool etc.. Vallance, Whitty, Powis and van Tam were among those in attendance:

“SAGE agreed there is no evidence to suggest that banning very large gatherings would reduce transmission.

“Preventing all social interaction in public spaces, including restaurants and bars, would have an effect, but would be very difficult to implement.”


2. As quoted in your fave rag The Guardian, Vallance said on 13th March:

“What we don’t want is everybody to end up getting it in a short period of time so we swamp and overwhelm NHS services – that’s the flattening of the peak,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Our aim is to try and reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not suppress it completely; also, because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity so more people are immune to this disease and we reduce the transmission, at the same time we protect those who are most vulnerable to it. Those are the key things we need to do.”

He later backtracked when criticised by others in his community but I suggest the statement above is pretty much unequivocal in relation to his thinking (at the time). They were following the science and the stupid denials of late don't wash with me - being charitable, perhaps though they were in some way trying to protect the people who were advocating as such? They certainly haven't come right out and laid it at their door have they?

As I said, I do believe they digressed from the advice in September and made mistakes - bad ones. But in those first 6 or 7 months I think they did what they could and followed the senior elected officers' advice - under extreme pressure as well.
It doesn’t take much effort to Google accounts of the tensions that quickly developed between scientists and the government with ministers automatically trotting out the line “ we were only following the science” when challenged about why we had such a disastrous first wave compared to our neighbours. As for them not blaming the scientists it’s hard to square that with a government minister (Therese Coffrey) saying in May 2020 “ If the science was wrong, advice at the time was wrong, I’m not surprised if people will then think we then made a wrong decision”. Nobody else in the government contradicted her or slapped her down for that remark that made headlines at the time.

You keep referring to what Vallance said but there is nothing inherently flawed in the quote that you use. It was the aim of not just this country but virtually everywhere to 'flatten the peak' not eliminate all cases completely (which couldn’t have been done then as it can’t be done now). Yes it was very clumsy the way he put it but then he’s a scientist not a politician and the very phrase ‘herd immunity’ has a bad connotations as if we’re animals or livestock . I refer back to the article I cited written in March 2020 ‘ “ People have misinterpreted the phrase herd immunity as meaning that we’re going to have an epidemic to get people infected,” says Graham Medley at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

To be fair to Matt Hancock (it's difficult but we should try ;) ) as that article points out he did say in March 2020 after Vallance's comments “Herd immunity is not our goal or policy.” ….. So if the science advice from Sage was to simply ‘flatten the curve’ then fair enough .....but it was government that took away the main tool to follow that advice by effectively abandoning track and trace for reasons still unexplained.

The other quote from the Sage advice on March 5th is much harder to understand now let alone defend – although the second sentence somewhat contradicts the first :-
“SAGE agreed there is no evidence to suggest that banning very large gatherings would reduce transmission. Preventing all social interaction in public spaces, including restaurants and bars, would have an effect, but would be very difficult to implement.”
How can there be “no evidence” banning large gatherings would reduce transmission but preventing social interactions in bars “would have an effect”? ….

But that aside it then leads on to the point about their how they were gathering this advice, how they were running the meetings, who they were listening to and why they were so secretive about it. There were many, many voices of scientists and non-scientists alike at the time who were horrified at allowing Cheltenham, Liverpool etc. I remember one expert (can’t remember who now) on Question Time absolutely incensed about it. Yes, I quite take your point of course that you can’t run any kind of project by having a massive unwieldy group all wanting to have their say. You do have to limit the number to a core group especially when time is of the essence. But if I want advice on a highly technical matter and I then become aware that the expert I’ve just listened to is being flatly contradicted by many others apparently equally qualified then the very least I would do would be to challenge him/her and seek out the alternative view and also think through the possible consequences if ‘my’ guy is wrong. There is a real danger that such closed groups develop an ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ mindset, and the scientists need to ‘stay onside’ once policy is developed – which is the complete antithesis of how the scientific method should work i.e. any view or opinion should be held lightly and dispassionately, all information on which it’s based should be made freely available and challenge and alternative views actively sought. What I think clearly happened here is that the scientists got sucked into the typical politicians' world of a bunker-mentality, paranoid about security and criticism...and with Dominic Cummings helping to run the show and part of Sage (I still find that simply UN-BE-LIE-VABLE ) then is it any wonder?

The buck has to stop squarely with the government. It's beyond dispute (surely?) they made a mess of the tests and trace, were criminally negligent in releasing of covid patients into care homes, cocked up the September/ Christmas easing of restrictions and most recently made a massive mistake in allowing free arrivals from India for weeks after denying access from Bangladesh and Pakistan (but don't you dare suggest that was because Boris was planning a high profile trip to Mumbai! ...Oh No!.No!.No!). You can't blame scientists for any of that and my contention is that even the first wave was fraught with incompetence and muddle that can't simply be waved away by saying "we were only following the science advice".
 
Nov 15, 2011
1,260
19
it was Rory Stewart at the very start of the pandemic in March 2020 who said :

“We’re going to shut schools. The Government doesn’t want to shut schools but we are going to shut schools and the Easter holiday is coming so why wait two weeks - why not shut them now? Number two, gatherings need to stop. Number three, people need to start self-isolating. They need to start working from home.

This is literally the most serious epidemic that we have faced since the end of the First World War and ultimately you can use the police to enforce that and you can call in the military to support in this kind of emergency.”

Just imagine what the death toll would be if he'd won the leadership race. And he was actually a Conservative unlike the cultists running the clown show now.
 
May 16, 2016
3,505
22
Ave_IT":whj4tn2t said:
Martyn":whj4tn2t said:
Would it be a good idea, to follow, what China, Singapore and South Korea, has done, in combat his virus.

Their figures, are now falling ‘slowly’, as they recover, ‘slowly’, it will be a bit draconian, but in the long run, it might be better.
God knows I can't stand this government (Boris Johnson in particular...and Patel....and Gove....and well all of 'em really) - but TBH I think they have done quite well (so far) to follow the scientific advice and behave in a proportionate way based on the evidence. So No I don't think it does make sense to just blindly follow what others have done in different circumstances and possibly for unscientific & political reasons.

The virus cannot be stopped from spreading anywhere in the world now. So it has to be a judgement as to the best way the outbreak can be managed so it spreads in a way that avoids an overwhelming strain on the health service and allows the most vulnerable to be protected from getting it until a vaccine has been developed (which could be at least 18 months) and be treated in hospitals that can cope. All this talk about Taiwan etc. taking massive draconian actions and 'successfully' stopping the spread misses the point. As soon as they lift the restrictions which cannot be sustained indefinitely there will be a 'bounce' in infection rates that could well be worse. The concept of 'herd immunity' is quite valid - the more people that get Corona virus then recover, the more people there are that then cannot then pass it on and so block transmission. When we reach the point where 95% of people are naturally immune it cannot circulate in the general population - but at the moment nobody is immune apart from the relative handful who have now recovered. Pretending you can keep it out and make it disappear by closing borders, schools, football matches etc. is a nonsense.

So let's just LISTEN carefully to the experts - let them enter all the data they have into their mathematical models and act in a rational way. Anyway - I've heard it's actually all caused by the 5G network that Huawei rolled out in China in the first place :whistle:

But back then, we all probably thought differently to how we do now with the gift of hindsight.
 
@Ave_IT, I would contest that the whole point of a organisation like SAGE is to be representative of that bigger, unwieldy group. That is surely their role, If they weren't expressing the naysayers of the day (who one might consider to be right or otherwise), then what exactly is the point? I simply do not believe that any scientist or medical officer would stand beside a politician day after day predominantly towing the same line if they did not agree with policy. It is beyond their ethical boundaries, or at least it should be.

As I've said, I don't present my arguments to defend the government per se and have illustrated where I think they made serious errors. But some of the utter drivel and uninformed nonsense that is touted on here (especially recently) deserves a retort. You BTW do not belong in that bracket - we won't often agree, but I always enjoy our spats.
 
Apr 15, 2004
2,785
6
East Devon
Guiri Green":1qlkt4lz said:
Ave_IT":1qlkt4lz said:
Martyn":1qlkt4lz said:
Would it be a good idea, to follow, what China, Singapore and South Korea, has done, in combat his virus.

Their figures, are now falling ‘slowly’, as they recover, ‘slowly’, it will be a bit draconian, but in the long run, it might be better.
God knows I can't stand this government (Boris Johnson in particular...and Patel....and Gove....and well all of 'em really) - but TBH I think they have done quite well (so far) to follow the scientific advice and behave in a proportionate way based on the evidence. So No I don't think it does make sense to just blindly follow what others have done in different circumstances and possibly for unscientific & political reasons.

The virus cannot be stopped from spreading anywhere in the world now. So it has to be a judgement as to the best way the outbreak can be managed so it spreads in a way that avoids an overwhelming strain on the health service and allows the most vulnerable to be protected from getting it until a vaccine has been developed (which could be at least 18 months) and be treated in hospitals that can cope. All this talk about Taiwan etc. taking massive draconian actions and 'successfully' stopping the spread misses the point. As soon as they lift the restrictions which cannot be sustained indefinitely there will be a 'bounce' in infection rates that could well be worse. The concept of 'herd immunity' is quite valid - the more people that get Corona virus then recover, the more people there are that then cannot then pass it on and so block transmission. When we reach the point where 95% of people are naturally immune it cannot circulate in the general population - but at the moment nobody is immune apart from the relative handful who have now recovered. Pretending you can keep it out and make it disappear by closing borders, schools, football matches etc. is a nonsense.

So let's just LISTEN carefully to the experts - let them enter all the data they have into their mathematical models and act in a rational way. Anyway - I've heard it's actually all caused by the 5G network that Huawei rolled out in China in the first place :whistle:

But back then, we all probably thought differently to how we do now with the gift of hindsight.
Absolutely GG - but I wrote that in March 2020 at the outbreak when the first cases were being found. Remember the pub that was immediately closed down when the first cases appeared and everyone who was in there was immediately traced, tested, isolated etc.? The government didn't announce the end to that blindingly obvious track-and-trace policy they just took the decision (March 12th) and as said you should listen carefully to the experts. The experts didn't tell them to do that - and I wasn't selecting the scientists, locking them away, refusing them direct access to the media and controlling the information that was released. The first I clearly remember an expert going nuts about the slow response was the guy on Question Time talking about the Liverpool-Madrid game - but government ministers must have known. The models about the 'bounce' in infections when the restrictions are released came from the government citing their experts ..... but no other experts had access to those models - hence the mass letter of complaint about the lack of transparency from other scientists. I was fully on-board and supporting the government (thru' gritted teeth) because they gave the appearance of calmly following scientific advice ..... with the benefit of hindsight that was a quite misleading.
 
The big question of course is whether the vaccines have broken the link between transmission and serious illness/death. Early days, but cases started to rise in the last week of May so you would expect to see a corresponding slight rise by now. While hospitalisations do seem to be following the trend, deaths are down week on week. Cases showing signs of plateauing in the last week or so as well. The next 2-3 weeks will be all revealing. Fingers crossed.